The basic concept is this --- Bear (a big, furry guy who thinks you smell good, with the warmth and calmness of Fred Rogers) runs a sort of foster home / daycare called the Big Blue House (situated within Woodland Valley) for a group of anthropomorphic children including a bearcub, two otters, a lemur and a mouse. Some of them, such as Tutter, seem to live at the Big Blue House, while others such as Ojo are usually only there by day. In any case, Bear loves them all the same and takes great care of them all.
Bear is truly the standout star of the show. How exactly he came to run the Big Blue House is not exactly known (if it is, I haven't seen yet), but Bear almost always knows just what do and what to say. He has the most gentle, calm, kind, caring personality you could ever imagine and an amazing singing voice. We do know some things about Bear --- that he went to high school and college, has played sports in the past and has many adult friends around Woodland Valley as well. Bear loves to sniff things, enjoys hot cocoa and a warm winter's nap and most of all enjoys being with all his friends. Sometimes in the morning, he'll get up early and talk to the sun. And every night, he visits the attic of the Big Blue House and talks with longtime friend Luna, the moon.
The main children seen in the Big Blue House are Ojo (a bearcub), Tutter (a mouse), Treelo (a lemur) and Pip and Pop (otters). They're all good friends and look up to Bear, but they each have their own issues and may argue from time-to-time. When disagreements happen, however, they can count on a bit of Bear's steady counsel, but can also often work things out on their own.
Ojo a young bearcub with a very sweet personality. She can be a bit shy at times, but for the most part is ready to play with her friends. She has a wonderful imagination and can make up all sorts of fun games.
Treelo is a mouse with edge. He can say some surprising things at times and often tries to act "cool." But his very small size means that he often has to have help with things from Bear. When this happens, you can usually count on hearing a kindly "Thank you, Bear" from him. He is also cheese fanatic and loves anything involving all sorts of cheeses, from Cheddar to Brie.
Treelo is a fairly young lemur who's relatively new to the Big Blue House. As the youngest, there are a lot of things the other kids are familiar with that are new to him. Treelo is active, energetic and can spur the others to action even at a time when they had planned to relax. Treelo loves swinging from all sorts of things with his long tail. Treelo sometimes breaks from normal speech and babbles in a sort of gibber-gabber that close-captioning sometimes (but not always) identifies as "Treeloese."
Finally, Pip and Pop are otters that can sometimes be hard to tell apart, but do still have separate personalities. Whereas Treelo loves cheese, they absolutely adore clams. When they're not at the Big Blue House, they can usually be found hanging out at the Otter Pond.
Occasionally, guests will show up at the Big Blue House. One of the most memorable recurring guests is Harry --- a little duck who was lost from his family. The gang invited him into the House and helped him find his Mom. He was invited back to the Big Blue House and returned a few times throughout the show's run. Harry has great respect for Bear and finds it hard to be familiar with him --- he almost always calls him Mr. Bear, despite Bear's insistence that it's "Just Bear."
Adult guest stars range from Bear's friends to special guests, even including Whoopi Goldberg as the voice of a musical Bandini. Bear's best adult friend is Doc Hogg, a hog who's the Woodland Valley physician.
Finally, there is Shadow, a special friend of Bear's. In most episodes, Bear will search for Shadow by singing the "Where Oh, Where is Shadow?" song. This funny little adolescent shadow-girl will then appear and tell some sort of tale with an amusing twist, or sing a song. These tales can be a real hoot and when she's singing, Shadow is a wonderful singer.
In fact, pretty much all of the characters on the show are great at singing. Bear is the most talented of them all --- absolutely astounding in any style. Bear can spin a song about anything from one's senses to the magic of the holidays. He sounds great solo, but often sings together with one or more of the other characters. Each of the characters has their own unique singing style and none of them of them are at all annoying or bad.
The fourth season of the show brought some changes to the Big Blue House. While I didn't enjoy the fourth season (which, oddly enough, is the only one Playhouse Disney usually shows these days) quite as much as the others (what I've seen of them, anyway), there's definitely a lot to be said for it. Perhaps the most major change is with Tutter --- he begins attending mouse school and socializing with other mice. This is good for him in many ways, but it also means that he has less time at the Big Blue House and Ojo especially begins to feel neglected. It all works out, though. The other major change is that the characters really begin to get out and explore a lot more of Woodland Valley. Ojo, in particular, learns to ride her bike, and goes on all sorts of adventures.
Unfortunately, the voice of Luna (Lynne Thigpen --- Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?) has passed away and the show's creator (also writer and director for many episodes), Mitchell Kriegman, has moved onto another project --- It's a Big, Big World. So it's highly unlikely that there will be anymore new episodes of the show. Playhouse Disney is airing a program called Breakfast with Bear, in which Bear visits the homes of preschoolers for their morning routines, but I haven't really watched much of it. Worst of all, Playhouse Disney (at least in the U.S.), now only usually airs the program on weekends, and only fourth season episodes. On the positive side, a large number of episodes are available on video and/or DVD.
Overall, this is one of the best programs you and/or your kids could watch. Top-notch viewing experience all around.